What We Can Learn From the Worst Mass Shooting in US History?

June 15, 2016 | Posted By: Connor Watkins

June Breakfast

The topic at the Greater Lexington Chamber’s monthly breakfast was all too frightening and relevant, just days after the worst mass shooting in US history occurred in Orlando over the weekend.

SLED Agent Wayne Freeman discussed what to do in an active shooter situation and provided the audience with some staggering statistics.

“This is an American problem. It’s a cancer in our society,” Freeman said. “As Americans we’re sick of being shot at the mall. We are tired of our kids being shot at school. We are sick of not being able to go to the theater and watch a movie. We’re pushing back, and I think that’s a good thing.”

It’s a problem in the US unlike it is in any other country. The US ranks first in the world in active shooter events, and it’s not even close. Since 1965, we’ve had 317 in the US. Canada ranks second with nine. What’s equally disturbing is the fact that the frequency of these events is escalating. During the 35-year period from 1965-2000, the 100 such events occurred in the US. In the 16 years since, we’ve had 217, and it’s only getting worse, according to Freeman. And those are the incidents of which we’re aware.

“The numbers have accelerated beyond our control,” said Freeman, who has been in law enforcement for almost 25 years. “We don’t even understand the numbers.”

Freeman also emphasized how important it is to understand it can happen anywhere.

“We’ve got to get rid of the attitude that it can’t happen here. Get ready. This can happen in your community. This can happen in Lexington,” he said. “By acknowledging that it can happen, you make yourself safer. You’ll be more aware.”

Freeman, who has been training people how to respond in active shooter situations for close to a decade, also provided some guidelines on what to do, the first thing being “make the decision to survive.”

“Fear-based training doesn’t work. We need to empower you. This is where it starts. It’s great that we’re training our firefighters, cops, EMTs, our military. It’s great. But when seconds count, cops are minutes away.” Freeman said. “You need to have something that you can rely on. We need to make you feel like you have something you can do, not walk around in fear, but know that you’re prepared.”

Freeman stressed calling 911 and getting as far away from the shooter as possible.

“Avoid the shooter at all costs,” he said. “Run away, deny the shooter access to you and other victims.”

This can mean barricading yourself in an office, putting furniture up against the door, locking the doors, turning off the lights, closing the blinds and turning down the ringtone on your phone. But Freeman also wants people to understand they have the absolute right to defend themselves if forced into the situation.

If you are in this situation, Freeman said you need to take care of yourself for three minutes, because that’s the average time for law enforcement to arrive. He also says the statistics show that shooters aren’t going to stop until they are stopped by law enforcement.

Freeman also emphasized the importance of not saying the names of shooters. Instead, he said it’s important to remember the victims and the victims’ families and to talk about them.

The breakfast was sponsored by Elliott Davis Decosimo and catered by Crescent Moon Restaurant.